Former minister calls for state of emergency in Trinidad and Tobago
By Eve George
Caribbean News Now senior correspondent
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad — In an exclusive interview with Caribbean News Now, former minister of the people and social development, Dr Glen Ramadarsingh expressed the view that the current government has to consider imposing a state of emergency because there is too much violent crime and bloodshed.
“Now we have areas in Trinidad where there are daily killing zones… crime is on a rampage, it’s strangling the lifeline of the country, terror and bloodshed everyday in the newspapers, it’s a very difficult time for our country,” Ramadarsingh said.
He also addressed the controversial reports of human trafficking and organ harvesting in Trinidad and Tobago.
“We have seen enough evidence of it; we have seen videos posted on social media with organs missing and a lot of ladies missing and no ransom was demanded, so this is a very frightening development,” Ramadarsingh said.
Ramadarsingh was appointed to a brand new ministerial portfolio in June 2010 and he was determined to change humanity and socialism in Trinidad and Tobago for the better because he knew he could make a difference.
Even after the People’s Partnership (PP) government of which he was part lost the 2016 general election to the People’s National Movement (PNM), residents in the south of Trinidad continue to praise the former minister’s ongoing efforts for the community.
While in government, Ramadarsingh’s work gained him the respect and admiration of the United Nations in 2011 and the UN has maintained an ongoing friendly relationship with him since then. A couple of years ago, whilst visiting his constituency office and seeing the tremendous amount of work he was doing, one of his team members told me that most times when Ramadarsingh was in office he stayed in his constituency office until 11 pm at nights tending to the citizens in the country, making sure their needs were being met.
In contrast it now seems to be common practice for ruling politicians to steal citizens’ hard earned tax dollars and care nothing in return about the people.
In the past, local media houses have published fabricated stories about Ramadarsingh over the years, trying to discredit him and his works. Some journalists reportedly received large sums of cash from persons representing the PNM to discredit him.
Recently one PNM minister I interviewed, Darryl Smith, stated to me that on one occasion he overheard some journalist saying, “Don’t ever let the truth come between you and a good story.”
I recently had the opportunity to interview Ramadarsingh on topics affecting our country and the world.
Q. What inspired your political career?
A. My dad was a local government councilor in 1983 so I grew up in a family with political lineage. I saw my dad when he was in office attend to needy persons from our home many times, sometimes late hours at night, and that’s when I realized what genuine care and the need to help others was. The thing that made me happy was seeing persons happy and clapping in groups when my dad delivered. So I wanted to follow in his footsteps and help make the world a better place.
Q. Which was your greatest life experience?
A. I believe it will be the moment I became a doctor in veterinary medicine, also in my political life becoming minister of the people.
Q. What was your greatest challenge as minister of the people?
A. It will always be the homeless situation, socially displaced. It was a struggle working long days and nights to bring together all the ministries to form an interagency unit. We were able to get 56 persons from the streets into rehab, 12 persons back in society with three of them attaining high paying jobs. We also made a positive impact on the lives of 123 persons that once lived on the streets.
Q. Is our political socio-economic structure designed to work and enhance the lives of the middle class and less fortunate in our society?
A. I Think it depends on the government and policies implemented by each government. I know for a fact that the People’s Partnership government always put people first. We raised the minimum wage several times, proper health care had always been a priority for us, the building of the first ever children’s hospital, we built several major establishments to help employ the poor and less fortunate.
Q. Do you believe that there is real anxiety existing in our country about the present economic situation, gainful employment, our children’s future, our wildlife, the escalating crime and corruption situation and loss of religious and moral values?
A. Certainly I can tell you that people are losing jobs every day, the economic crisis, the international climate has affected us, oil and gas prices are low and, yes, we are in a very challenging time; it’s not a time of plenty, crime is on a rampage, it’s strangling the lifeline of the country, terror and bloodshed everyday in the newspapers, it’s a very difficult time for our country and I think as a nation and a people we need to provide the social safety net to protect and catch those who are falling.
Q. What can we do as a people and country to counteract those narratives?
A. We need to design an action plan for the youths; we need to replace guns with a book, a laptop and smart phone that accesses constructive information and help make them entrepreneurial by creating opportunities to better their lives.
Q. Do you believe that socialism and humanity is under attack in our country by our leaders?
A. It is a very difficult time for the poor, people are getting poorer. We have cases where persons were put out of government housing development (HDC) homes and have to live on the streets; crime is now rampant so certainly humanity is under threat, our murder rate is one of the highest in the world and that’s very sad for a nation which is rich in oil and gas.
Q. How do you suggest we rid poverty from the people, seeing that our country is tremendously wealthy in natural resources?
A. Education, engagement and enrichment is the surest way of poverty eradication. Going into the less fortunate areas and taking the young ones out and placing them in programs that appeal to them by engaging them in sports, music, arts, trade, etc.
Q. Are you surprised at the drastic change in the crime and corruption level in Trinidad and Tobago within the past year?
A. Crime is everybody’s business; when I was minister of the people I quadrupled the child line service for children who were being abused, recently I saw that lifeline was in trouble; we need to change the jail system so that when a man goes into jail for a small crime there is the necessary aid to help reform him rather than him coming out worse because there is no reformation. I think the government has to confront the issue of having a state of emergency (SOE) because there is too much bloodshed. Now we have areas in Trinidad where they are daily killing zones, that’s not a good place for our national security. It’s frightening it’s like what you see in the movies.
Q. Do you believe the unruly ISIS gangs existing in Laventille, Port of Spain, and Enterprise Chaguanas, Trinidad, occurred because of suppression and needs not being met?
A. I believe that there should be more social intervention by the ministry of national security in trying to find these youths and finding ways to help reform them by getting them out of these gangs.
Q. Do you believe the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) bill will ever be implemented in our country seeing that white collar crimes and corruption start amongst the politicians and government financiers?
A. I know at the level from parliament support has been given towards that legislation, we know that the new president of America may make changes, because we see that he is modifying some of his campaign promises so I believe that the FATCA legislation will come into play and we await that with bated breath because I agree with you, if you want to track terrorist activities you have to track the money and big money is usually involved in funding these kinds of operations for persons’ self and business interest.
Q. Do you believe FIFA vice president Austin Jack Warner did a tremendous amount of work to build and assist the PP government and also his country?
A. I am aware that he was very active in the party as deputy political leader and at that time he was also the vice president of FIFA and of course given his profile and network he did indeed help the party.
Q. Do you believe the people rejected him when he needed them the most?
A. I think his people hoped he would have rejoined the party, I think his victory in Chaguanas West was a call for him to mend the issues he had with the political leader at the time and build a stronger UNC but I think they took that win as a signal to build his own political party, which did not really pick up the momentum.
Q. Is there a sanction in our country to protect our animals from human abuse and our wildlife?
A. I know the People’s Partnership did make a strong decision to ban hunting for two years, many hunters were unhappy but we needed to be protective of our endangered species and wildlife because they are our treasure. There are several groups that are advocating for greater sanctions to stop animal abuse. We supported the animal welfare groups. I keep saying that local tourism and eco-tourism is the way of our future because it enriches the environment.
Q. How do you see the conflict in the Middle East involving Syria affecting us and the world?
A. Everything affects everywhere now, there has been so many persons identified as Trinidadians fighting for ISIS in Syria, they have become blacklisted, we have seen where national figures have been accused of accepting funds from that part of the world. This is where FATCA comes in.
Q. Do you believe Israel/America to be the intelligence and saviour of the world?
A. Certainly they have done a lot of work and we’ve learnt from them and partnered with them and we need to do so because the world is moving forward rapidly and we must never be left behind.
Q. How do you see the appointment of new US president Donald Trump positively affecting the world?
A. I think he has ideas, he vocalized on action not being taken by the Obama administration on terrorism, illegal immigration and on the economy. I expect that his great ideas and energy will be met with the institution and somewhere there will be a estuarine of wisdom that will bring about good change and if not he will have to face the polls as all the other presidents to seek another term.
Q. Do you believe that the human trafficking and organ harvesting business is now rampant in our country?
A. We have seen enough evidence of it we have seen videos posted on social media with organs missing and a lot of ladies missing and no ransom was demanded so this is a very frightening development.
Q. Former minister of national security Gary Griffith wanted to build a wall around the country’s border called the Maritime Wall to protect us from illegal activities such as human trafficking, organ harvesting, cocaine and marijuana and the guns and ammunition trade from coming into and out of our country. Were you in support of such wall?
A. Walls now do not have to be concrete and bricks. Technology provides us with different fields that can create the wall and when disturbed one can track exactly where and when the disturbance occurred. Yes, I supported that wall because Venezuela is only seven miles away and there are boats coming in and out of both countries with illegal cargos being transported in them. We need more surveillance of our border.
Q. What inclusive growth could you state happened under your ministry whilst you were in office?
A. We had a policy that each one was as important as everyone and that kind of inclusion is the basis of our democracy; the voice of the people is the voice of god and the people reign supreme. My ministry demonstrated that on all levels, it was about the homeless, those without food, those who suffered life crisis, floods, fire, storm relief, you name it. We were the ministry of the people. Not having the ministry of the people today, the people’s unit has been shut down, the poverty reduction unit, the policy building unit has been shut down, the actual field officers have gone been fired. Some 125 workers who were involved in making people’s lives better by getting them out of poverty are now themselves unemployed and living in poverty. So where are we? We are not in a very advanced position. I think we need a review of our policies and we need to remember that the persons who propelled this PNM government into power was the very small man, the poor man and he remains poor today because of bad policies. Free education has been taken away from the children of our future. We once boasted of free education in Trinidad and Tobago. We were the proudest in the CARICOM nations; now we cannot boast and now we have excluded the elders from obtaining free education. This is a no no.
Q. If you are permitted the chance to serve your country again, what changes would you make to upgrade social development?
A. There is very little I will change actually. I will ensure that systems will be put in place so that some of the measures put in place will be legislated so no one can take it away.
Q. Did you love serving your country?
A. Certainly and I still am.
Ramadarsingh’s position as a minister may be lost but he is definitely never forgotten for the works he did. The people loved and appreciated this man and continue to do so.
Highlights of Dr Glenn Ramadharsingh’s term as Trinidad and Tobago’s Minister of the People and Social Development: